Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • CitySmart
  • Queensland University of Technology
Partners
  • Australian Government
  • Energex
  • The Good Guys
  • Queensland Council of Social Services
  • BCM Group
Results
  • 12.3% reduction in annualized household energy consumption
  • 22.5% increase in energy habits adopted

Case study PDF

Landmark Case Study

Reduce Your Juice: Meaningful Gamification Motivates and Empowers a Challenging Consumer Segment to Save Money and Energy

This innovative social marketing approach changed the energy use behaviours of low-income renters in Brisbane, Australia, through meaningful gamification. The gamified experience promoted desired behaviours and reduced undesired ones, all carefully chosen using McKenzie-Mohr's cbsm guidelines for selecting behaviors. The Reduce Your Juice program was designed to be fun, easy and impactful. On the exterior, it appears as a simple, fun and easy experience of games and gamified activities, communications, community, and rewards. However, below the surface lies a sophisticated intervention developed through the application of formative research and theory and implemented by a team of multi-disciplinary experts from the energy, social marketing, behaviour change, digital insights & technology, research, and social sectors. Designated a Landmark case study by our Building Energy peer review panel in 2022.

Background

The Reduce Your Juice (RYJ) pilot program received funding from Australia’s Federal Department of Industry and Science as part of its Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program, that trialed different approaches in various locations to produce findings that could be used to inform future policies and programs to assist low-income households to become more energy efficient.

Traditional energy reduction programs were high cost but low impact for this priority audience, who were sceptical of government programs and authority. Service models were high touch, involving home visits making them expensive and complex to run for government, utilities and social service providers. Traditional learning approaches relied on heavy information provision to educate people to change their behaviour with limited success. 

RYJ sought to test and demonstrate the use of a digital approach to energy efficiency engagement combined with the provision of energy efficiency rewards to create real energy consumption behaviour change amongst a cohort who are traditionally difficult to reach and engage and least likely to take any action at all. Once proven, this approach could be rolled out to a larger audience at relatively low cost, for example there are 1.7m low-income households in Australia, with 63.2% of this population renting or occupying public housing. (ABS) 

Behaviour Selection 

A methodology adapted from Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) was used to ensure the intervention would be targeted towards the best areas for change for the priority audience. This involved analysing many potential behaviours and scoring them based on predicted impact (cost saving), ease of change (including barriers and benefits), and penetration within the target group. The complexity and nature of performing each behaviour were also considered (e.g. simple, short term, complex, repetitive, long term, or habitual). 

Behaviours were shortlisted based on their scores, with priority given to the cost benefit and ease or likelihood of performing the behaviour. Following this process, behaviours were logically grouped into three clusters which formed the primary focus for the program, as follows. 

Switch

  • Switch off lights
  • Switch off appliances to avoid standby
  • Switch off the second fridge/freezer

Cool

  • Use a fan rather than the air conditioner
  • Set your air conditioner to 24 degrees in summer
  • Close curtains and blinds to keep the temperature down
  • Close windows and doors if using the air conditioner

Wash

  • Use a clothesline or drying rack, rather than the dryer
  • Wash full loads of washing
  • Wash in cold water
  • Take shorter showers (hot water use – target 4 minutes)

Getting Informed

Research revealed demographic and psychographic profiles of these young low-income renters that were pivotal in designing the intervention. 

Inter-Generational Poverty 

Some of the target group had experienced generations of low income in their families, often being born into their situation. This could normalise aspects of stress and crisis (such as addiction, family, finances, relationships, or violence) in their lives and could mean a lack of positive role models that could help break the cycle. This could also affect their ability to prioritise the importance of energy reduction in their daily lives, as it may have been considered a ‘non-essential’ issue. 

The income status and occupational types of the target group meant they were often ‘underemployed’ in that despite their need for full-time wages, they only had part-time or casual work. There were high rates of unemployment within the target group, with large portions of stay-at-home parents performing home duties and raising families rather than being in full-time employment. With a lack of full-time employment and discretionary income, the target group often spent a lot of time at home. This placed more emphasis on having household entertainment including televisions and gaming consoles as well as a connection to the internet. While the target group earned the lowest levels of income in the population, they did not see themselves as ‘low income’. Generally, they tended to overestimate their income position within the spread of income levels, perceiving themselves as middle class even though they sat in the lowest income deciles. 

Generation Y Renters 

Most of the target group were part of Generation Y, known for ‘living in the now’, with a high level of instant gratification featuring in their daily lives. This also translated to an ability to change or try new things. 

They often lived in short-term rental housing and had a transient lifestyle. These rental households on low, fixed, and unreliable incomes were particularly impacted by rising energy costs due to: 

  • Poor-quality housing
  • A higher proportion of income spent on this essential service
  • A lack of discretionary funds and limited ability to reduce energy use by upgrading existing appliances and fixtures 

Inefficient Appliances, Many Gaming Consoles, Laptops and Air Conditioners 

The target households generally had essential appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and electric ovens. The level of more discretionary entertainment devices such as televisions, laptops and gaming consoles was not limited by their low income; the number of gaming consoles and laptop computers was much higher than the Brisbane average. The high overall number of devices created a high energy dependency. Target households had high levels of communication devices, especially smartphones, tablets and computers provide access to a range of services, entertainment and resources through the internet. 

Along with the high number of appliances, the age of major household appliances also impacted energy consumption, with the older appliances using significantly more power. Many in the target group had appliances aged over 10 years old, especially refrigerators (20%) and standalone freezers (25%). The high cost of replacing these appliances created a real and perceived barrier. 

Two thirds of target households had air conditioners, only just below the Brisbane average. Many households had two or more of these, and many of the conditioners were over 10 years old. 

High Energy Bills, Perceived as Beyond Their Control 

Despite having the lowest levels of income in the population, these households had 40% higher energy bills than an average (median) Southeast Queensland Household. 

The factors discussed above led to a perceive